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Hampton’s Greatest Sporting Moments: Boat Club storm Schools’ Head of the River

Over the next term, HSC will be attempting to discover the identity of Hampton’s Greatest Sporting Moment, with your help. This article tells the story of the Boat Club’s extraordinary success at Schools’ Head of the River in 2013. This will compete against three other moments in Group Five. Vote in our Twitter poll on Friday to decide your favourite moments – the winner will progress to the quarter-final stage!

Hampton’s history in rowing is formidable, with Olympic golds, World Records and Henley Royal Regatta victories aplenty. But there’s a case that one day trumps all – that of the Schools’ Head of the River race in March 2013.

Hampton dominated the competition – one of the most competitive of them all. Of the seven events entered by Hampton, six were won, returning 54 gold medals to Hanworth Road.

One of the most prestigious events in the rowing calendar, 2000 rowers entered the race in Kew, which follows the same route as the famed Boat Race and marks one of the biggest Head races of the year.

After a frustrating winter of indoor training after adverse weather conditions cancelled races and made rowing outdoors impossible, Hampton were unaware of the quality of many of their competitors, having seldom raced against them that season. Though the weather remained tricky, with thick clouds and rain, the water was in perfect condition – flat with a mild headwind.

The 1st VIII were the first Hampton crew to set off in their time trial. The strong wind caused problems for some crews, causing them to spin, but Hampton were able to stay on course in their new boat named after the Headmaster at the time, Barry Martin.

Defending champions and favourites Abingdon were also competing, along with traditional powerhouses Eton, St. Paul’s and St. Edward’s. But the Hampton crew set off with a steady rhythm, building consistency and momentum.

As is common with the ‘Head’ format, Hampton knew little of their success – crews must wait until all other races have finished before they can find out their time.

The 1st VIII, though, were duly entertained by the other Hampton crews, all of whom were enjoying formidable races. Although there was some controversy when Dulwich allegedly clashed oars with the J15 crew, every crew had performed well and was in with a chance of victory.

Rumours began to circle around the Hampton camp, with whispered mutterings suggesting the 1st VIII had won. Almost an hour later, the official results poured in, and it was confirmed that Hampton had won the Championship VIIIs by six seconds.

Hampton’s success didn’t end there – it emerged that, not only had the 1st VIII won, but also the 2nd VIII, the 3rd VIII, the J16As, the J16Bs and the J15Bs. Only the J15A boat missed out on gold, finishing in a respectable fifth place.

The J15s’ encouraging time of 19 minutes and 7 seconds was only six seconds slower than the J16 Bs and beat Dulwich by an astonishing 35 seconds.

Headmaster at the time, Mr Barry Martin, lauded Head of Rowing Mr Colin Greenaway and the rest of the rowing staff’s efforts as “just amazing” and said he “finds it quite difficult to get [his] head around what the Boat Club has just achieved.”

That summer, Hampton would go on to top the medal table at the National Schools’ Regatta in Nottingham – a fitting end to a remarkable year of rowing.

Josh Bartholomew, Hampton Sports Chronicle Editor

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